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Chuck Plunkett Whips Out Shovel Again, Starts Digging Furiously

Denver Post Political Editor Chuck Plunkett.

Denver Post Political Editor Chuck Plunkett.

Chuck Plunkett, the Political Editor at the Denver Post, responded rather quickly — and officially — after a video circulated this morning of Plunkett speaking admiringly to a conservative group ("The Liberty Movement," which is closely connected with Colorado's own super-conservative Independence Institute) about how biased he is toward their ideals. We thought about just updating our earlier post with a link to Plunkett's blog post on "The Spot," but after re-reading his "response," we decided there's too much to discuss with just a brief update.

Say what you will about Chuck Plunkett, but you've got to give him this: The man can dig some impressive holes. Few people can dig themselves deeper or faster, and his latest aggressively passive-aggressive blog post is a sight to behold. Let's examine a few of the more interesting paragraphs from his 723-word diatribe, "On My Liberty Movement Advice":

A top political and policy adviser to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, the chairman of the state’s Democratic Party and others on Sunday dashed off some posts on Twitter linking to an old video clip to question whether The Denver Post’s politics coverage is biased.

It’s a serious question for The Post’s politics editor, and I take it seriously. Given that the posters are such big deals in the political firmament, I thought I should try to answer them. But not in 140 characters.

This is quite the lede. Plunkett starts pointing fingers in the first sentence while trying to both downplay the reach of the video and drag the entire newsroom into a problem that is his alone. According to Plunkett, this was only happening on Twitter (untrue, but, whatever), which meant it wasn't that big of a deal. So why respond within hours of the video's appearance? Because this is serious and he takes things seriously.

The single most telling phrase of the entire post is also in the first sentence, in which Plunkett says that these mean Tweets were calling into question "whether The Denver Post's politics coverage is biased." We doubt that anyone following the discussion under the #copolitics or #copols hashtags on Twitter today — or reading Colorado Pols — would be confused about the concern being voiced. This video, and this story, is all about the appearance of bias on the part of Chuck Plunkett individually. Such criticism could certainly imply a problem at The Post in general, but that would be a gross exaggeration of the criticism today. As we wrote earlier, the video makes it clear that Plunkett "carries a strong bias toward conservatives and Tea Party ideals."

Back to Plunkett's post:

…I hope Denver Post readers who worry that our politics coverage might be biased given Salazar and Palacio’s statements on Twitter will watch the clip – and watch it in its entirety. I believe that an objective viewer of the clip will find it understandable that I stand behind my remarks and do not regret them…

Here we find Plunkett trying to deflect a pass that was never thrown when he says that he stands behind his remarks and does not regret them. Great.

Here's the thing, Chuck: You're not a politician. You're not running for office. Nobody's asking whether or not you truly believe what you said. Everyone does believe you — that's the problem.

Moving along:

…I then went on to say that if the Liberty Movement wanted to have impact and provide that leadership, as it said it wanted to do, it needed to provide the intellectual groundwork for arguments that those of us in the middle who decide elections understand. Yes, like me, an unaffiliated voter who votes both sides of the ticket based on the candidates…

Yes, you read that correctly. Just a few sentences after talking about how he stands by his statements — all of which are very much in line with a far right conservative ideals — Plunkett decides to play the "I'm an unaffiliated voter" card. This is completely meaningless, of course; choosing not to officially affiliate with a political party says nothing at all about your political leanings. The overwhelming majority of reporters and editors at The Denver Post are probably registered as "unaffiliated" voters, because that's what a journalist is supposed to be doing. Plunkett wants you to pat him on the back for stopping at stop signs.

Most of the rest of Plunkett's "response" is dedicated to re-hashing a bunch of other points he made in his speech. Again, these are answers to questions that nobody is asking. When Peyton Manning speaks to the media after a Denver Broncos game, the Q&A doesn't begin with a rundown of what happened in the second quarter. We'll skip past all of this because, as Plunkett says, you can watch the video yourself.

On to the end:

I often say that it is too bad that in these hyper-connected days, with so much information and communications technology at our fingertips, that political discourse is conducted on semi-contextual got-ya moments. A lot of money is being spent and wasted to further the kinds of hired guns who make this present state of our discourse so much like a middle-school bus ride.

But a lot of us got off that bus a long time ago and never want to go back. So I hope this helps.

Sorry it took so much more than 140 characters.

Sorry, were there actually 140 characters anywhere in Plunkett's "response" that address the only question anyone cares about? Plunkett's 8-minute speech to the "Liberty Movement" is noteworthy because he goes out of his way to admit that he has a heavy conservative bias that he doesn't even try to hide at the Post. The rest of his ideas and comments from the video provide no additional context and do nothing to deal with the GIANT F***ING ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM.

Don't forget — Chuck Plunkett has a history of making questionable editorial decisions that appear, at the very least, to be overly helpful to Republican candidates and ideals. That history of work, coupled with his own words to the "Liberty Movement," are what fuels concern that Plunkett consciously allows his conservative bias to shape the political coverage at The Denver Post. Like most of the holes that Plunkett ends up digging, this controversy is entirely of his own making.

Plunkett created this problem himself. He inflated the problem himself (seriously, why would you "respond" to the circulation of the video if you aren't nervous about it?) And he's not going to get out of this mess by digging deeper or trying to pull the rest of the newspaper staff into the hole with him.

Denver Post Political Editor Makes Clear His Allegiance to Right Wing

Chuck Plunkett

Denver Post Political Editor Chuck Plunkett. Nowhere near the center.

Liberal bias at the Denver Post? Uh…no. Consider this argument settled.

Check out this YouTube video of Denver Post political editor Chuck Plunkett leaving no doubt that he carries a strong bias toward conservatives and Tea Party ideals. In the video, Plunkett tells a conservative audience that he stopped trying to be impartial when he became a member of the editorial board at the Post. This is the same editor who just a few months ago inexplicably pulled a story that was critical of Republican Rep. Mike Coffman, apparently only because it was critical of a GOP incumbent.

It has long been rumored that Plunkett goes out of his way to "adjust" articles that might be negative news for Republican candidates and policies, and this video is pretty darn clear about where he stands politically. We'll be curious to see how if Editor Greg Moore deals with this embarrassingly biased behavior from the man in charge of the Post's political coverage.

Click below to see the full video.

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Ryan’s Radio Love for Gardner Regurgitates Trouble for Republicans

(You're not helping… – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Mwah!

Mwah!

Rep. Paul Ryan was in town last week, and he did a round of interviews on talk radio shows, hoping to find a audience hungry for his new book, which essentially explains how the Tea Party can grab actual control of things, instead of just throwing wrenches and, ultimately, losing again.

The book is called The Way Forward: Renewing The American Idea, and here's how Ryan, who was Mitt Romney's running mate, described it on KNUS' Kelley and Company Aug. 26:

RYAN (at 3 minutes): I believe it’s not enough to criticize the direction the country is going. I believe it’s more important to say what you would do differently. And the purpose [of his book] is to show a conservative movement that is capable of appealing to a majority of Americans. One of the lessons I learned from being on a presidential campaign where we didn’t win the election is we have to win Congress to our cause. We have to show a conservative agenda and a conservative movement that is inclusive, that is appealing, that is aspirational, that’s principled but is big enough to appeal to a majority of Americans, so that we can win national elections, so that we can win Senate races like Cory Gardner is undertaking. So that we can actually fix the country’s problems. I believe we need to give the people of this nation a crystal-clear choice about what kind of country they actually want to have. And then if you win that kind of election, then you have the moral authority to actually make it so.

El beso de la muerte.

El beso de la muerte.

The funny thing about this statement is, no one would describe Ryan or Gardner as representative of the "inclusive" movement conservatives need to win. They're the problem with the Republican Party.

I mean, Ryan didn't appear with Gardner in Denver for a reason: Democrats take every opportunity to spotlight Gardner's votes for the Ryan's budget, which cuts deep into Medicaid, Medicare, Obamacare, and other popular programs, particularly affecting the poor and everybody else.

It's so bad, I'm surprised Gardner's name came out of Ryan's mouth at all–and, in turn, that Democrats didn't spin it as, Ryan Visits Denver and Endorses Gardner!

As for Gardner, his divisiveness goes beyond voting for the Ryan budget. Gardner likes to talk about the big fat need for Republican inclusiveness too, as he did with Fox 31 Denver's Eli Stokols after the big fat 2012 election loss, saying how much the GOP needs women and Hispanics.

But it wasn't long after the 2012 election loss that Gardner went back to DC and added his name to the list of sponsors of the federal personhood bill, continuing his long-standing and hard-line opposition to abortion, even for rape and incest.

And of course Gardner helped block immigration reform, continuing his past pattern, even opposing the House Speaker John Boehner's puny effort to promote broad principles that might fly with the Tea Party.

Now, Gardner's trying to buckpedal, breaking out the whitewash, as ColoradoPols explained again yesterday, and talking about how inclusive he is.

And Ryan sounds just like Gardner, except Ryan is using less whitewash, because he's not running for vice president anymore–or for Senate in Colorado.

…But What About Tuesday?

Colorado Republicans are apparently big fans of alliteration. They've come up with two volunteer recruitment days — one for men and one for women! You know, because Man/Monday and Woman/Wednesday.

Since it is Friday and the eve of Labor Day Weekend, we thought this email (yes, it's a real email) from the Colorado Republican Party could make for some fun brainstorming activities. In the comments below, give us your alliterative suggestions for how Republicans could attract voters on the other five days of the week.

Man Monday Women Wednesday

Boehner Back to Denver to Raise Money for Countdown Coffman

aeiucircbrownpalace

House Speaker John Boehner hosted a fundraiser at the Brown Palace hotel back in May, which attracted plenty of outside attention.

As Lynn Bartels of the Denver Post reported yesterday:

House Speaker John Boehner is coming to Denver Tuesday to campaign for one the GOP’s most endangered members, Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora.

Coffman faces a challenge from former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff in one of the most competitively drawn seats in the country. Tickets for the fundraiser range from $2,500 to $250.

This election cycle, Coffman is the only GOP incumbent defending a House seat that could go either way, according to top political pundits such as Charlie Cook and Stuart Rothenberg.

Apparently Boehner is a fan of the Brown Palace hotel. Boehner was in Denver back in May to do a Coffman fundraiser, though presumably this visit will not again include former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Coffman is fighting for his political life this election season, and getting a second visit from the big orange man himself is another in a long list of signs that Countdown Coffman is well and truly underway.

Gardner Breaks Out The Whitewash on Immigration

Reps. Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman.

Reps. Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman.

A fascinating new story from MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin documents Colorado GOP Senate candidate Cory Gardner's continuing attempts at "evolution" on the issue of immigration reform as disaffection with reform advocates grows–this time, making an assertion about his record that appears to contradict, well, the record.

Enter Colorado, which may be reformers’ last chance to prove they can make the GOP pay a price for their intransigence before the next presidential election. There, activists are organizing to defeat three-term Republican Rep. Mike Coffman in his re-election bid and, more importantly, working to thwart GOP Rep. Cory Gardner in his campaign to unseat Democratic Sen. Mark Udall…

“I will do everything in my power, my community will do anything in our power, to make sure [Gardner] is not elected,” Sonia Marquez, northern director for [Colorado Immigration Rights Coalition Action Fund], told msnbc. 

This wasn’t the role immigration groups hoped to play at the outset of the election cycle. In fact, activists originally saw Gardner and Coffman as promising candidates to help put reform over the top in the House. 

Marquez personally spent more than a year trying to win Gardner’s support for immigration reform. Under her guidance, activists met with him personally, held rallies across his district, and organized roundtable discussions with supportive local businesses, all with the goal of making Gardner comfortable with legislation granting legal status to undocumented immigrants. Gardner offered them encouraging words throughout and his staff was friendly and accessible, but he never quite took the leap, always telling constituents that while he wanted the GOP to address immigration he opposed the Senate’s bipartisan plan…

Finally, Marquez gave Gardner an ultimatum: Either release your own plan for the undocumented or face the consequences. The deadline passed and Marquez and her fellow activists occupied Gardner’s office with a mariachi band to mark the point of no return.

This is a fact that needs to be driven home: even to the point of annoying partisan Democrats, immigration reform proponents were genuine in their attempted engagement of Reps. Gardner and Mike Coffman. Both Gardner and Coffman had every chance to meaningfully get behind any number of immigration reform proposals, only to see even baby steps like Coffman's bill for immigrants who enlist in the military stalled out by GOP House leadership. Eventually, it became clear to immigration reform advocates in both Coffman and Gardner's cases that the rhetoric just doesn't match their actions–and a small gesture on a pet issue like military service is no substitute for the broad reforms needed.

With all of that said, check out Gardner's attempt to extricate himself from the wrath of activists who gave him every chance, but understand now that he was playing them the whole time:

Gardner said he was disappointed with how things turned out as well. Despite reports to the contrary, he told msnbc he had tried to sell his colleagues on the House GOP’s ill-fated immigration principles and shared activists’ goals of passing significant legislation. 

“It’s a shame, I thought we were working very well together,” he said of his relationship with pro-reform groups. “I would like to see them work with people opposed to immigration reform instead of trying to play politics with people who support immigration reform.”

Gardner's opposition to the moribund House GOP "immigration reform principles" was documented by Roll Call back in March. We'll be happy to note for the record if Roll Call updates that whip count six months later to reflect Gardner's new version of events. Until then, we have to assume that Gardner simply hadn't made up his mind where to position himself on immigration for this race yet. Now that he has a better sense of where he needs to be–that is, as far from his previously anti-immigrant politics as he can–a clear need to revise that history presents itself.

You know, like he did with Colorado's Personhood abortion bans on another Friday not so long ago. Or a few Fridays after that, when he did a 180 on the issue of child adoptions by gays and lesbians. Or just a couple Fridays ago, when Gardner claims to have "never supported the shutdown" despite a wealth of evidence that he did. In all of these cases there is a common thread of not just reversal, but an attempt by Gardner to revise the record in the face of documented evidence to the contrary. With Personhood, Gardner claimed to have begun reconsidering years ago–but his continued sponsorship of equivalent federal legislation makes a liar out of him. Same with LGBT adoptions and now immigration: there's what Gardner says today as he runs for the U.S. Senate, and then there's a longstanding record that makes it very difficult to believe him.

The best rejoinder for any of these would be action: but whether the result of their own failings or the intransigence of GOP House leadership, that's the one thing we can feel pretty confident isn't going to happen before the election.

Beauprez says Colorado shouldn’t house child migrants because of our “inland” location

(Babblin' Beauprez strikes again – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

“Both Ways” Bob Beauprez (right).

As reported by The Denver Post Wedneday, gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez told KNUS-radio yapper Peter Boyles that he would not allow young immigrants from poverty-stricken Central American countries to be housed anywhere in Colorado while they await deportation decisions.

But Beauprez's explanation for his young-migrant ban, which wasn't picked up by any news outlet that I can find, is just as newsworthy as his position itself:

BOYLES (Aug 27 at 5 minutes): We know that Hickenlooper has welcomed these illegal children who have come into this country.  Would you allow Colorado to continue to receive these, quote, undocumented whatever-they-are, fill-in-the-bland, no matter how old they are or how young they are. Would you stop that?

BEAUPREZ: They've got to stay on the border, Pete. They shouldn't even be allowed in the border, but to bring them this far inland makes it that much more difficult to send them back home.

BOYLES: Thank you!

BEAUPREZ: Yep. Done.

This far inland? I listened three times to make sure he said it. He did. Then I checked to see if these children ride on horseback to their deportation hearings, making it difficult to send them home from a inland location. They don't. They ride in modern planes and buses, some of which have been blocked by anti-immigrant protesters.

Transportation logistics are irrelevant to Boyles' agenda of ridding Colorado of immigrants, no matter how small or vulnerable. Or no matter the horror they've fled. He wants them out, and he's not scared to say that housing and caring for undocumented children isn't our job.

Yet Boyles didn't ask Beauprez for a real reason for banning child migrants from Colorado.

So we're left to speculate that Beauprez's thinking is probably along the lines of, someone else will be compassionate toward them, and it's messy for Colorado to chip in. And that's a charitable interpretation.

Mark Waller: Chaps Is Nuts, But “Legislative Majorities Matter”

UPDATE: Democratic Secretary of State candidate Joe Neguse calls on Republican opponent El Paso County Clerk Wayne Williams to return a campaign donation from Gordon Klingenschmitt:

Secretary of State candidate Wayne Williams' campaign finance reports show he accepted a campaign donation from Gordon Klingenschmitt, the Republican State House candidate who recently compared Congressman Jared Polis to a terrorist group in Iraq and Syria. Many prominent Republicans have denounced his controversial statements, including Colorado GOP Chairman, Ryan Call.  Despite that, the El Paso County Republican Party, which Williams once chaired, is standing with Klingenschmitt. 

In response, Joe Neguse's campaign manager Elisabeth Mabus released the following statement, "Colorado needs a Secretary of State who will stand up for all Coloradans.  We call on Williams to return the money, publicly reject the hate filled speech and agenda of Gordon, and oppose his candidacy for the State House.  A radical like Klingenschmitt has no place in our state legislature."

—–

Rep. Mark Waller, Gordon Klingenschmitt.

Rep. Mark Waller, Gordon Klingenschmitt.

As Vic Vela at Colorado Community Media reports, Rep. Mark Waller, the outgoing Republican representative for Colorado House District 15 in Colorado Springs, has finally broken his silence about his nominated successor Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt. Ever since Klingenschmitt won the HD-15 primary and especially since his latest over-the-top attack on Democratic Rep. Jared Polis last weekend, we've been waiting eagerly to hear what Rep. Waller has to say about the man his party has chosen to succeed him.

Waller's message to HD-15? Hold your nose and vote for "Dr. Chaps."

"Democrats like Polis want to bankrupt Christians who refuse to worship and endorse his sodomy," [Klingenschmitt] wrote. "Next he'll join ISIS in beheading Christians, but not just in Syria, right here in America."

Waller said his "11-year-old son can identify that as a hateful speech."

"I think it was horribly inappropriate to say," Waller said. "It doesn't matter if he's a person running for state representative or a person on the street. I think it's terrible to say.

"Obviously, he does not speak for me or the Republican Party."

Waller hasn't endorsed Klingenschmitt, but he wouldn't go as far as saying that he should drop out of the race – as Klingenschmitt's opponent, Democrat Lois Fornander has.

"If you're not voting for him, you're voting for the Democrat and quite honestly legislative majorities matter," Waller said. [Pols emphasis] "But that puts (House District 15 voters) in a rock and a hard place in terms of who to vote for."

We'll give Waller credit for at least acknowledging what Klingenschmitt said is not appropriate. That's better than the chairman of the El Paso County Republican Party Jeffrey Hays, who flat-out told reporters that Klingenschmitt "is part of our team" and that he "represents a whole host of views the Republican Party will have." But the bottom line seems little different–"legislative majorities matter." There's nothing in this statement that will encourage "Chaps" to do something smart for his party (not to mention morally) like withdraw from this race, and alongside with Hays' explicit support, Mark Waller appears to be giving tacit clearance for the Republican faithful in HD-15 to vote for Gordon Klingenschmitt.

House District 15 is heavily Republican and Klingenschmitt is still favored to win, in spite of his recent comments.

Because this is a solidly Republican district, it has never been a serious component of Democratic House strategy–and if it were to fall to a Democrat this year due to Klingenschmitt's implosion, the GOP would almost certainly retake the seat in 2016. If anything, that makes it doubly strange that local Republicans are so reluctant to speak out against Klingenschmitt. Is it because Klingenschmitt could damage other Republicans on his way down, like friend and political associate Sen. Bernie Herpin? Or could it be that "Dr. Chaps'" extreme rhetoric just doesn't upset social conservatives all that much?

In terms of damage outside HD-15, the latter seems like the bigger problem.

Immigration Protesters Confront Paul Ryan In Thornton

Hey there, Coloradah.

Hey there, Coloradah.

Roll Call's Humberto Sanchez reports–none other than 2012 vice presidential nominee and conservative icon Rep. Paul Ryan was in town yesterday, for a book signing at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Thornton! We hadn't heard anything about this up to now, but Rep. Ryan has been on a relatively low-key book tour throughout the August recess.

Not low key enough, apparently:

Ryan was confronted by Greisa Martinez, a national organizer with United We Dream. Martinez and three companions bought books and waited in line for Ryan. But once Martinez reached the front of the line, she asked Ryan questions about the lack of congressional action on immigration.

“I do not understand why you want to deport me and my mother? Why didn’t your party pass immigration reform when you had the opportunity,” she loudly questioned, mentioning the deferred action for childhood arrivals program. “Rep. Ryan, My name is Greisa Martinez I am DACA-mented and I am hear to stay!” One of her cohorts unfurled a banner and the store manager asked her to leave.

Ryan told her he wasn’t taking questions, and initially kept interacting with other book buyers, but ultimately ducked into a back room until police came and escorted Martinez out of the store…

Being a well-known leader in the Republican-controlled U.S. House, which if you haven't heard enjoys popularity ratings somewhere in the vicinity of traffic jams and root canals, we suppose it's not a surprise that Ryan wasn't in Colorado yesterday to campaign with fellow Republican Congressmen Cory Gardner or Mike Coffman. Gardner and Coffman are both locked in tight swing races, running as hard as they can to the middle–ground that Paul Ryan, safe to say, doesn't occupy.

Ryan told CQ Roll Call he sees similar outbursts in states with major political contests, such Florida and here in Colorado. The Senate race between Republican Rep. Cory Gardner and Democratic Sen. Mark Udall could decide control of the chamber, and is rated Tilts Democratic by The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

“I didn’t get it in Texas; I didn’t get it in Oklahoma,” Ryan said in an interview after the signing. [Pols emphasis]

There a pretty good argument to be made here, folks: if Paul Ryan wants to help his party to victory this November, he should consider sticking to states like Texas and Oklahoma.

D’Oh! Republicans Looking at Serious Campaign Finance Violation

Kit Roupe Oops

Illegal coordination? In-kind campaign contribution? Take your pick!

Colorado Republicans have had quite a bit of trouble with campaign finance violations during this election cycle, and the hits just keep on coming. The variety of violations has been curious — from Tim Neville's open courting of anonymous donations to Secretary of State candidate Wayne Williams accepting obviously illegal donations — but sometimes the biggest problems can come from simple sloppiness.

Take a look at this recent mail piece in support of Republican Kit Roupe in HD-17 (Colorado Springs). The mailer comes from the Colorado Leadership Fund, which is a GOP "soft side" political 527 committee formed to help elect Republican candidates to the State House.

The problem here should be fairly obvious to the politically-astute reader: Side two of the mailer directs readers to CatherineRoupe.com, which is the official campaign website for Kit Roupe. Official campaign materials produced or created by the candidate's campaign falls into the category of "hard side" campaign finances.

It is illegal for the "soft side" and "hard side" to coordinate together, of course, but this would likely qualify as an "in-kind" contribution to Roupe's campaign (because it promotes her official campaign website). By making this "in-kind" contribution, the Colorado Leadership Fund (CLF) just inadvertently changed its legal definition from a non-profit "527" committee to an official political committee.

Why does that matter? Without getting too technical here, "527" committees operate under different rules as political committees. By making this unsolicited "in-kind" contribution to Roupe's campaign and changing its legal definition to a political committee, every contribution the CLF has received in the last 180 days (and henceforth) that exceeds the $550 limit for State House candidates is now a campaign finance violation subject to penalties that are 2-5 times the amount of the violation. Not only that, but the CLF probably now has to file regular contribution and expenditure reports that are much more frequent — and much more transparent — than anything that is done through a "527" committee.

This is a silly, silly, silly mistake that may prove incredibly costly to Republicans even if Secretary of State Scott Gessler lets them off the hook for campaign finance penalties. The bigger issue for the GOP is that it now has a serious credibility problem with major donors who are most definitely not interested in having a big spotlight shone in their eyes.

Republicans have been playing fast and loose with campaign finance rules during the entire 2014 election season, and it's possible that this particular problem will have crossover effect with the GOP's shiny new "soft side" organization charged with winning control of the State Senate.

The GOP had little hope of winning control of the State House this year, but we're guessing that Republican Reps. Libby Szabo and Brian DelGrosso won't be put in charge of anything more important than making coffee in 2016.

 

View the full PDF of the Roupe mailer here: Page 1 (KitRoupe-Mail1) and Page 2 (KitRoupe-Mail2).

 

Colorado Republicans Celebrate China’s Quickie Executions

Execution in China.

Execution in China.

​Debate over the death penalty in Colorado continues this election year, as Republican work to make Gov. John Hickenlooper's granting of a temporary reprieve to "Chuck E. Cheese Killer" Nathan Dunlap a campaign issue. A recent interview leaked by a conservative news outlet, as one example, quotes Hickenlooper as considering a full commutation of Dunlap's sentence–along with the governor's growing belief that the death penalty in Colorado (as elsewhere) is no longer a just punishment.

Republicans, aware that this is a divisive issue and that polling shows risk for Hickenlooper's new position, have pounced on the death penalty as a way to divorce independent voters from an otherwise likable candidate. Depending on how you spin it, Hickenlooper's temporary reprieve to Dunlap while he deliberates the efficacy and morality of capital punishment can be portrayed as thoughtful statesmanship or bumbling indecision. Naturally in an election year, Republican opponents are 100% of the opinion that it's the latter.

Yesterday, the Republican news site Complete Colorado reprinted an op-ed from former GOP. Gov. Bill Owens, written in 1993 not long after the Chuck E. Cheese murders. GOP social media surrogates were quick to spread it around:

But when we actually started reading Owens' 1993 Rocky Mountain News guest column, which we had never heard of before yesterday, the "shivers down our spine" were likely for reasons other than GOP operative Kelly Maher's.

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Beauprez says Tea Party “uprising” is “healthiest thing we have seen in very long time in America.”

(Um, what? – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Tea Partiers.

Tea Partiers.

Remember this Denver Post headline, after the June 24 Republican primary: "In Bob Beauprez, Colorado GOP goes with mainstream contender."

I rolled my eyes at the time because, I'd been following Beauprez for years and knew him to be far outside the mainstream, as seen in his support for replacing income tax with a "consumption" or sales tax, just to name one Tea Party favorite.

Maybe whoever wrote The Post's June 24 headline knows better now than to characterize Beauprez as a "mainstream contender," as his Tea Party leanings have oozed out in the news over the past few months. (See his comments about Obama pushing America close to "civil war" and about 47 percent of Americans being "perfectly happy" to let someone else pay the bill.

If not, Beauprez's statement yesterday, in response to a question from KLZ 560-AM guest host Jimmy Sengenberger, should seal the deal:

"I have said for years, Jimmy, that this [the Tea Party] is the healthiest civic movement I have seen in my lifetime, and I'm almost 66 now. I don't think I've ever witnessed a time where people have stood up and said, I want to save this Republic. I want my government back, and focused primarily on constitutional originality and fiscal discipline. It can't get any better than that. The time is absolutely. Are there disagreements among various groups and various individuals. Sure. Or is it always a perfect, clear smooth path. No, of course not. It wasn't in our nation's founding either. But if this nation is going to survive. If we are going to be that greatest nation on god's green Earth, it isn't up to government. It is up to the people. And this uprising that we broadly call the Tea Party movement in my opinion, again, is the healthiest thing we have seen in very long time in America." [BigMedia emphasis]

What kind of mainstream candidate could possibly say this? None. Ask Ted Cruz or Sarah Palin.

And during a separate radio interview yesterday, reported by The Denver Post's Joey Bunch, Beauprez proved the point.

As you know if you've followed the death of bipartisan immigration-reform legislation in congress, the Tea-Party has distinguished itself as taking the most obstructionist, uncaring, and uncompromising positions on immigration-reform. And the Tea-Party approach is embodied in KNUS talk-radio host Peter Boyles.

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Mike Coffman Explains Why Koch Brothers Story is Important

Riccardi-Coffman-Tweet

Associated Press reporter Nick Riccardi didn’t miss the relevance of Rep. Mike Coffman’s donor-access admission.

Media outlets from across the country are jumping on the leaked audio from a secret Koch Brothers retreat this summer in which a few high-profile Republican candidates — including Rep. Cory Gardner — are heard getting all gooey in praising the infamous Kochs for their financial commitment to Tea Party and Republican politics. But before you dismiss this as another round of nonsense partisan politics, there's a very real reason why this story is so important (and why it is getting so much attention): Republicans have been very open about the quid pro quo that is taking place between big donors and politicians.

Exasperated Mike Coffman

Did I say that out loud? Aw, crap.

Check out this clip of Rep. Mike Coffman from a CD-6 candidate debate in Aurora on Aug. 15, in which the incumbent berates challenger Andrew Romanoff over the latter's refusal to accept PAC money…while making the clear point that Coffman donors get preferential treatment (full clip after the jump — fast forward to 00:45 for the specific statement). That campaign donors are often granted more access to politicians is nothing groundbreaking — but talking about it so openly is pretty odd.

Coffman's re-election campaign has benefited greatly from a heavy dose of television ads paid for by Americans for Prosperity, the political organization created and funded by the Koch Brothers. Not only that, but David Koch himself had already maxed out to Coffman's campaign before the end of April (PDF document).

Whether it's Gardner doing the Koch stroke, or Coffman using General Dynamics as an example of a donor who didn't get their money's worth, the key here is that Republican elected officials are openly discussing the fact that they are going to listen to their top donors first and foremost — leaving regular ol' Coloradans somewhere down a very long list of priorities.

As the liberal group ProgressNow asked in a press release this morning, the critical question isn't about where these donations came from; what matters is what donors like the Koch Brothers have been promised in return for their largesse.

 

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Colorado GOP’s “Groundbreaking” New Website: Epic Fail

UPDATE #3: In a separate post to the Denver Post's Spot Blog, the Denver Post's Jesse Paul belatedly reports the Colorado GOP's accidental use of photos of Utah and Arizona on their "local" research website:

The site, set to go live Thursday but already accessible, features a photo of the Maroon Bells and the state’s capitol building. However, two other images originally posted featured the Colorado River in Arizona and Monument Valley on the Utah-Arizona border.

The image of the Colorado River in Arizona was captioned, “Working to restore Republican values to Colorado.”

By about 2:45 p.m. on Wednesday, the out-of-state photos had been replaced with scenic photos of Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs and a ski area.

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UPDATE #2: To be fair, it does appear that one of our readers was chastising the Colorado GOP for using D.C.-based consultants for Ryan Call's "brain child" website about an hour before that detail was publicized by GOP operative Kelly Maher. Credit where due, ClubTwitty.

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UPDATE: Local Republican operative Kelly Maher provides an unintentional clue as to the origin of this site, which the Denver Post falsely billed as Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call's "brain child." Apparently, Call's brain lives in a Washington, D.C. consultant shop:

Something tells us she wasn't supposed to Tweet that! But there you have it, folks.

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The Denver Post's Jesse Paul has an absolutely doting story up about the Colorado Republican Party Independent Expenditure Committee's new website, meant to "intended to help distribute political opposition research and raise funds." Described as the "brain child" of state party chairman Ryan Call, apparently local Republicans are very, very proud of this:

ColoradoCore.org acts as an organizational tool for both Colorado-based and national Republican groups involved with the 2014 state elections and beyond as both a fundraising tool and information hub. The idea is to have readily available, easily disseminated information about liberal candidates that others, as well as those running the website, can use to create ads.

"With an eye towards longevity, and in understanding that all politics is local politics, our focus is on winning a majority in the Colorado State Senate in 2014, in addition to targeting statewide races," said Lexi Effron, a spokeswoman for the site's organizing group, Colorado Republican Independent Expenditure Committee.

The site is rolling out with opposition research on seven state senate candidates in districts spanning Colorado that "internal research reveals to be competitive and winnable by a Republican."

The group — which at its heart is focused on unearthing campaign expenditures — is a new tool for the Colorado Republican Committee. Effron says the new site is chairman Ryan Call's "brain child." [Pols emphasis]

Our first thought visiting the new ColoradoCore.org website is that its design is rather…well, clunky–big images that push text content below the fold, and no easy means to accomplish simple modern tasks like social media sharing. Not exactly a "best of breed" design from a commercial web design sense.

And then we noticed something else: several of those big, clunky slideshow graphics don't depict Colorado.

Principles

See this image? It's #3 on the Colorado GOP IE website's slideshow. We're pretty sure that anybody who has lived in the American Southwest for any appreciable length of time knows this is Monument Valley–in Utah.

Values

"Working to restore Republican values to Colorado?" By the look of it, they're working to restore Republican values to a canyon in Arizona. Because that's where this photo was taken!

The moral of this story? The same as it is every time a local Republican candidate or organization tries to pass off what's obviously the work of some out-of-state consultant shop as locally relevant–only to get burned by something ridiculous. We discover that it's not local, it's not terribly relevant, and apparently, locals who should have given this site a cursory once-over before the Denver Post launches the site with an obliging story couldn't be bothered.

Which makes it very difficult to take this new website seriously, even with a really great puff piece.

Cory Gardner Loves Him Some Koch Brothers

Koch Brothers and Cory Gardner

Cory Gardner is a big fan of David and Charles Koch…though he’d prefer to keep that quiet.

UPDATE: This story is being picked up everywhere, from Time magazine to NBC News and everywhere in between.

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It's no secret that the billionaire Koch Brothers (David and Charles) are the proud parents of the Tea Party, Americans for Prosperity, and major contributors to all things Republican. It's also no secret that Democrats have been raising significant amounts of money using the Koch Brothers as Bogeymen, so Republican politicians have been careful about associating themselves too closely with the Koch family. A new audio recording has emerged in which Republican Senate candidates such as Cory Gardner heap praise on the Kochs during a super-secret conference in California this summer.

As the Huffington Post reports:

Three top Republican Senate candidates heaped praise on the political network built by the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch during a secretive conference held by the brothers this past summer, according to audio of the event.

Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst and Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton directly credited donors present at the June 16 retreat in Dana Point, California, for propelling them forward. Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner told attendees that his race would likely be decided by the presence of "third party" money — an obvious pitch for generosity from the well-heeled crowd…

…Audio of the event, held at the St. Regis Monarch Beach resort, was obtained by The Undercurrent and shared exclusively with The Huffington Post. In it, the three Republican candidates, appearing on a panel titled "The Senate: A Window of Policy Opportunity for Principled Leaders," speak for several minutes each about the state of their respective races. Because the discussion took place in mid-June, some of the comments are dated. In addition, some of the audio was redacted to preserve the anonymity of the individual who provided it — "a source who was present at the event," per an official with The Undercurrent — and to remove sections with too much cross-talk. A separate source, who helped organize the retreat, confirmed each candidate's participation.

Getting exposed for loving up the Koch Brothers isn't a critical wound for Gardner, of course, but it will hurt his chances of beating Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in November–not to mention making hypocrites of anyone who brings up, for example, big Democratic funder Tom Steyer. As we've said over and over again in this space, Colorado voters have shown that they are more interested in supporting the statewide candidate who appears to be closest to the political center, and Gardner absolutely can't afford to appear any more partisan than he is already viewed. And while close ties to the Koch Brothers may not be a deciding factor for Unaffiliated voters, Gardner's cozy relationship with the coal barons will be incredibly helpful for Democrats as they try to motivate the base to get out the vote.